Hundreds of boats are scattered across Southwest Florida’s waterways 126 days after Hurricane Ian.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is responsible for finding out who owns these boats and getting them removed.
From 700 boats scattered across the area after the hurricane, down to 300.
“They’re all different sizes, anywhere from 35-foot trawlers to small 21-foot center consoles,” said Lt. Stuart Spoede, with the FWC.
So many agencies have worked to clear out vessels.
“Whether that’s efforts from FWC or FTM, or another partner agency, or it’s the registered owner themselves, getting that vessel off the water on their own,” said Adam Brown, the public information officer for the FWC.
It’s hard to find an entity more involved with the process than FWC.
“Part of this process today will be to get a description of the vessel, as well as ID numbers,” Spoede said.
Out of the estimated 300 derelict vessels still out there in Southwest Florida, the FWC said nine of those remain unidentified at the beginning of their mission on Wednesday.
They were able to identify at least four more on Wednesday.
Before the storm, they tried to identify at most one or two derelict vessels per day. Now they are trying to identify more.
“Obviously, since the storm, there’s a lot more that need to be identified,” Spoede said. “We want to get these boats removed and restore Charlotte Harbor to the way it was before the storm.”
The job is difficult because visibility can be as low as zero.
On Wednesday, Spoede was the FWC diver going underwater.
“I’ll have a safety diver on board with equipment in case I get entangled,” he said. “Part of this process today will be to get a description of the vessel, as well as ID numbers.”
Visibility is minimal, he said.
“I’ll be working by feel,” Spoede said. “I’ll literally be reaching out and trying to feel for him plates on these boats… Letting the water settle a little bit and putting my face right up against the head and trying to read.”
FWC said time is of the essence.
They want to identify and help the vessels out of the waterways as soon as possible because the longer they sit there, the longer the potential environmental impacts could be.